Sustainable food production — from local producers to commercial growers — will be key to feeding a world population that will number 9.1 billion people by 2050.

We must be aware of what needs to happen to feed 2 billion more people, LSU AgCenter associate vice president Gina Eubanks said at the Farm & Table New Orleans conference on Sept. 8.

A hundred years ago, 40 percent of the U.S. population was on the farm; now it’s less than 2 percent, said John Purcell, vice president and global vegetables research and development lead with Monsanto.

“The folks who have it on their shoulders is a smaller and smaller sliver of society,” Purcell said. “We need to support agriculture at all levels — local and worldwide.”

The world needs all forms of agriculture and all sorts of farmers, he said. “Not only farmers, but also the chef, grower and packer to be successful.”

A lot of food is left in the field because it’s not “on spec,” Purcell said. “We’ve become spoiled as consumers.”

“There’s no one solution” to feeding the world, Eubanks said. “Technology will have an impact on food availability.”

Other speakers at the conference addressed sustainable seafood practices, the influence of nutrition research on diets and farmer-restaurant relationships.

Sponsored by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, the LSU AgCenter, the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the National Farm-to-Table Alliance, the conference focused on the use of locally sourced foods as well as the challenges of worldwide hunger.

“We were looking for a diverse audience to bring all parties together,” said Katie Calabrese, director of trade shows and conferences for the convention center.

A Saturday activity day on Sept. 9 featured activities for the public to learn about the food production chain. “The festival is free and fun for everyone to attend,” Calabrese said.

Source: LSU AgCenter (Richard Bogren)